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Home > Daily Practice > Vows and Commitments > Uncommon Bonding Practices for the Buddha-Families

Uncommon Bonding Practices for the Buddha-Families

August 1997
parts published in
Berzin, Alexander.
Taking the Kalachakra Initiation.
Ithaca, Snow Lion, 1997.
modified, April 2002

Introduction

In addition to bodhisattva and tantric vows and the common bonding practices (dam-tshig, Skt. samaya) for the five Buddha-families, taking the Kalachakra empowerment (initiation) also entails an additional pledge to maintain six uncommon practices that create close bonds with six Buddha-family traits.

[For the difference between a vow and a bonding practice, see: The Auxiliary Bonding Practices.]

[See: The Common Bonding Practices for the Buddha-Families.]

As with the nineteen common pledges, the first five practices create close bonds with the five types of deep awareness, represented by the Buddha-figures Akshobhya, Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Vairochana. These are, respectively, taking a life, speaking untrue words, stealing others' wealth, appropriating others' spouses, and taking alcohol and meat. As with the fourth secondary bodhisattva vow concerning ethical self-discipline, they refer to never hesitating to commit destructive actions of body or speech when love and compassion call for them and there is no alternative.

[See: The Secondary Bodhisattva Vows.]

Exclusive to Kalachakra is the presentation of a sixth family trait – clear light mental activity itself, represented by the Buddha-figure Vajrasattva. Not deriding women's sexual organs creates a close bond with this trait. This is equivalent to the fourteenth common root tantric vow - not deriding women.

[See: The Common Root Tantric Vows.]

Kalachakra presents two alternative meanings for each of the six bonding actions: explicit suggestive (drang-don) and implicit suggested (nges-don). As defined in the Guhyasamaja exegetical system of six alternative meanings (mtha'-drug) of vajra expressions, the explicit suggestive meanings are their face-value meanings. They are suggestive of something deeper and hidden: their implicit suggested meanings. Here, we shall present the explanation given in the Gelug tradition.

[See: The Six Alternatives and Four Modes for Explaining Vajra Expressions in Anuttarayoga Tantra.]

The Explicit Suggestive Bonding Practices

(1) To bond closely with the vajra family of Akshobhya, taking a life means to kill a harmful being. For example, we need to kill a rabid dog that is biting people, when our motivation is solely compassion, and no other means are available to stop the damage it is causing. This is similar to one of the secondary bodhisattva vows – not hesitating to commit a destructive action when love and compassion call for it.

This type of killing requires the deep awareness of the sphere of reality (chos-dbyings ye-shes), to differentiate between what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected. It also requires the deep awareness that is like a mirror (me-long lta-bu ye-shes), to reflect the full scope of the situation. Likewise, it requires the selfless courage, as a budding bodhisattva, to accept whatever painful consequences might follow from our acts.

(2) To bond with the sword family of Amoghasiddhi, speaking untrue words means to explain how things appear, which does not accord with how they exist. Thus, in a technical sense, it means to explain interpretable level teachings (drang-don) when helpful, not only definitive level ones (nges-don) concerning voidness. In everyday practice, for example, to help someone to make a difficult decision, such as buying a house, we simplify the variables that need to be taken into account although, in actuality, the issue is far more complex. Speaking deceptive words such as these requires the deep awareness of how to accomplish various aims (bya-grub ye-shes).

(3) To bond with the jewel family of Ratnasambhava, stealing others' wealth means to take possessions away from people who are miserly with them, in order to help such persons overcome their stinginess, and to give these objects to others in need of them. An example is taxing the rich on luxury items and using the money to feed the poor. Taking what is not readily given arises from the deep awareness of the equality of those in need (mnyam-nyid ye-shes).

(4) To bond with the lotus family of Amitabha, appropriating others' spouses means to take, under special circumstances, the wives or husbands from people who are overly attached to them, in order to help such persons overcome their dependence. This bonding practice does not specifically mean to have an adulterous affair. Even appropriating someone's husband for a few days to help us move house can help his clinging wife to become more self-reliant. Stealing others' spouses is founded on the deep awareness of individuality (sor-rtog ye-shes), which singles out a specific person.

(5) To bond with the wheel family of Vairochana, taking alcohol and meat means to use them for special purposes without attachment. Certain medicines have an alcohol base and certain sicknesses, such as hepatitis, call for a diet that includes meat. In order to regain our health and strengthen our bodies to engage in meditation practice and serve others, we may need to take these substances even if we would normally avoid them. Taking alcohol and meat in such circumstances requires the deep awareness that is like a mirror to reflect our situation clearly and the deep awareness of the sphere of reality to do what accords with the facts.

(6) To bond with the cleaver family of Vajrasattva, not deriding women's sexual organs. The bliss of union that arises dependent on a woman's sexual organs can enhance the blissful awareness of voidness and bring the mind to more subtle levels so that this blissful awareness is with clear light mental activity. In this way, not deriding the female sexual organs creates a close bond with clear light mind.

The Implicit Suggested Bonding Practices

The six implicit suggested bonding practices of taking a life and so on are specific methods cultivated with the Kalachakra complete stage (rdzogs-rim) yogas and applied in the central energy-channel at the six main chakras. These practices help to dissolve the subtle energy-winds at these chakras and to attain an unchanging blissful awareness (mi-'gyur-ba'i bde-ba) of voidness with clear light mental activity. Since the six chakras are represented by the six Buddha-figures, these practices create close bonds with each.

(1) To bond closely with the vajra family of Akshobhya, taking a life means to bind, at the crown chakra, the white subtle creative drops (thig-le, white bodhichitta), which are the basis for experiencing blissful awareness, and thus to take the life of the energy-winds of orgasmic release.

(2) To bond with the sword family of Amoghasiddhi, speaking untrue words means to speak, at the heart chakra, the false word of the short vowel a (the Sanskrit prefix of negation), upon causing the energy-winds to enter the central channel.

(3) To bond with the jewel family of Ratnasambhava, stealing others' wealth means to steal, at the throat chakra, the wish-granting jewel of the immutable drop, since like Buddhahood, it is not given by others.

(4) To bond with the lotus family of Amitabha, appropriating others' spouses means to appropriate, at the forehead chakra, the great seal (mahamudra) woman of unchanging bliss, possessing the supreme of all aspects (as a devoid form).

(5) To bond with the wheel family of Vairochana, taking alcohol and meat means bind, at the navel chakra, the body's energy-winds and, by igniting the inner fire of tummo with them, to experience unchanging great bliss and voidness without orgasmic release.

(6) To bond with the cleaver family of Vajrasattva, not deriding women's sexual organs means to experience pleasure with a sealing woman partner (Skt. mudra), to generate unchanging bliss awareness of voidness, but while binding the white bodhichitta, at the pubic chakra, so there is no orgasmic release.

Guhyasamaja Variants of the Uncommon Bonding Practices

Guhyasamaja empowerment entails pledging to maintain four uncommon bonding practices, which are variants of the first four implicit suggested bonding practices in Kalachakra.

(1) Taking life means taking the life of the energy-winds by causing them to enter, abide, and dissolve in the central energy-channel.

(2) Speaking untrue words means to speak of voidness, which does not accord with the impossible way in which everything appears to exist, namely with true existence.

(3) Stealing others' wealth (taking what has not been given) means to take Buddhahood without it being given. Enlightenment is something that cannot be given by anyone; it must be attained ourselves.

(4) Appropriating others' spouses means to familiarize ourselves intimately with the voidness of all phenomena. The term spouse refers to voidness.